The plastic bag levy is finally set to become a reality in English stores – but the independent retail trade will remain untouched by the Government’s plans. 

The Queen’s Speech finally came good on the Government’s plans to charge 5p for plastic bags, a measure which will see England joining its Welsh and Scottish neighbours in charging for bags.

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This is unnecessary and unhelpful. We will continue to press ministers to make the 5p charge universal in England

Shane brennan, ACS

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But it’s only the multiples and larger stores which will be forced to charge.

Retailers were left deflated by the news. NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “The NFRN and its members have long supported calls to cut the use of carrier bags and we recently met with Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] Minister Dan Rogerson to discuss the inclusion of small businesses in the scheme. I am, therefore, extremely disappointed that despite calls from a number of small business groups and the recommendation of the Environmental Audit Committee, small retailers will be excluded from the upcoming carrier bag levy.

“As has been shown in other parts of the UK, not only is the levy of benefit to the environment, but to businesses and local charities, too. When the regulations are introduced to Parliament, we will seek to get them amended to allow for the participation of small businesses.”

ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan said: “We remain convinced that the proposed exemption from the charge for small and medium sized business is unnecessary and unhelpful. We will continue to press ministers to make the 5p charge universal in England, as it is the case in the existing and proposed schemes in the rest of the UK.”

Not every retailer wanted the levy, however. Raj Patel from Pat’s News And Booze in Leeds said: “It will stop impulse buys if people have to pay for a carrier bag. Customers would also have given us more grief.”